sealPurdue News

May 3, 1996

Food, drink, shelter in landscape plantings attract birds

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The increased popularity of birdwatching has caused an explosion of birdfeeding in the past few years as amateur ornithologists strive to attract the most beautiful and melodious songbirds to their yards.

While most folks use feeders and feeding platforms to entice their feathered friends, Purdue University Extension landscape specialist Bruno Moser suggests selecting landscape plants that are pleasing to birds.

For instance, plants that bear fruit or have a horizontal branching habit would be tempting to some bird species, he says. Plants that provide a place to roost, nest, have a snack, or get out of the weather are all good choices. Water incorporated into the landscape also is attractive to birds.

Moser says using a variety of landscape plants is a visually attractive way to subtly lure birds into all areas of your yard, whereas feeders and platforms draw them all to one spot.

Providing habitat that isn't usually present is also a service to the birds, according to Purdue Extension wildlife specialist Brian Miller.

"Basically, when you're doing these plantings, you're providing cover for escape and nesting that normally wouldn't be there," he says.

Moser says large evergreens, such as hemlock, spruce and pine, offer a good place to roost. Miller adds that some avian species prefer trees, while others favor low-growing shrubs or ground cover.

Examples of fruiting plants that are inviting to birds include dogwoods, hazelnut, elderberry, crabapple and deciduous hollies.

"Crabapples have fruit that matures in the fall and stays on in the winter," Moser says. "There are dozens of varieties; the smaller-fruited varieties are better.

"Deciduous hollies have red and orange and yellow berries that last well into winter.

"Larger ornamental grasses have seedheads that are attractive to birds. They grow to be 2 to 6 feet tall and have plumes full of seeds."

Moser also recommends sunflowers and viburnums.

In urban and suburban areas, Miller says, goldfinches, mourning doves, robins, cardinals, house finches, blue jays, nuthatches, wrens and tufted titmice may visit your landscape smorgasbord.

Moser says: "Hummingbirds are attracted by red shades, especially in the spring and summer months."

He says having red flowers in bloom at those times and supplementing with hummingbird feeders around the yard will really draw in these tiny birds.

To learn more about landscaping to attract birds, Miller recommends "Landscaping for Wildlife," a book by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Moser suggests "Birds of Indiana" by Russell E. Mumford.

ACS code/960426 Ag Moser2/9605f8

Source: Bruno Moser, (765) 494-1352; Internet,

Writer: Andrea McCann, (765) 494-8406; Internet,

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page